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For Aspiring Writers

Where do you get your ideas?

By Lisa J. Peck

I. Researching You

The old cliché write what you know has some true. You can be your own great resource for ideas, research information, and to tapping into a more emotional story. Let's see what you can learn from you and how that get you started onto writing your next great novel.

A. Your Emotions
  1. List 10 Experiences in you life when you felt:
    a.

    b.

    c.

    d.

    e.

    f.

    g.

    h.

    i.

    j.

    k.

    Angry

    Anxious

    Apathy

    Confusion

    Contentment

    Curiosity

    Loneliness

    Longing

    Love (parent-child)

    Love (romance)

    Passion
    l.

    m.

    n.

    o.

    p.

    q.

    r.

    s.

    t.

    u.

    v.
    Resignation

    Restlessness

    Revenge

    Desire

    Despair

    Excitement

    Fear

    Fondness

    Forgiveness

    Sadness

    Shame
    w.

    x.

    y.

    z.

    aa.

    bb.

    cc.

    dd.

    ee.

    ff.

    gg.
    Surprise

    Suspicion

    Sympathy

    Tenderness

    Worry

    Gratitude

    Shame

    Grief

    Irritation

    Jealously

    Sadness

  2. Write the most powerful experience in personal narrative.

  3. Now change it into fiction.

  4. Do five of these exercises and look to see how they could fit together to make a story.

B. Your Experiences

  1. List 10 strong beliefs you hold.

  2. Think of different ways you can explore that belief in a fiction story. For example:

    1. Think up of a character who holds the exact opposite belief. Make that person compassionate and believable. If you can't come up with it

    2. Play the "what if …" game. Think up of a scenario that would challenge you on your belief. For example:

      What if a person who firmly believed in pro-life was faced with the reality that her daughter would die if she didn't abort the baby? What would the mother do? Stick to her belief in life or try to talk her daughter into saving her own life?

      "What if you just can't imagine yourself doing something? Then, instead of trying to think of what it would take to get you to do what your character does, think of something you actually have done that is like what the character does" Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, 30.]

      Think up a situation or an environment that would challenge this belief. What would you do to fight against the injustice? What would your character do? How could you make the fight for justice even harder to achieve?

C. Applying Your Everyday Knowledge to Your Story.

  1. List the professions your knowledgeable about.

  2. List your hobbies.

    1. If there was anything you could do, what would it be?

  3. List your fields of interest.

    1. What do you want to learn about?

    2. What do you feel guilty for not learning?

    3. What did you always wonder about? Or what would you like to know on a more deep level?

  4. List the type of books you read.

    1. What nonfiction subjects are you drawn to?

    2. What type of stories interested you?

    3. What genre should you write?-Often it will match what you read.

    4. Read a new genre to stretch your imagination. One genre I would like to try is . . .

    5. Writer's block is helped by reading favorite author.

    6. Reading favorite author can spar ideas.

    7. What are unique customs that's just particular to the area you grew up in? If moved around a lot what was unique about each different area? Or what was unique to moving a lot that others would not know about?

    8. What was the attitude of your family of origin with different social or current events?

    9. Did the regional culture clash with your family or blend? Did your family conformed? Protest? Or simple not pay attention to the social pressures?

    10. How did your family relate to the major happens in the country? At any point did their attitudes change? If so what were the chief factors for the change?

    11. What motivated your parents to act like they did and be the way they were?

    12. What motivated your behaviors as a child?

  5. Personal background (what's familiar to you).

    1. How many were in your family of origin? How did this affect you?

    2. Did you live in an apartment, house, or condo? How did this affect you?

    3. Did you go to private school, public school, or were you home schooled? How did this affect you?

    4. Raised in a city, town, or suburb?

    5. Was your family of origin healthy? Dysfunctional? If so in what ways?

    6. Were you raised in religion? If so what? How did it impact you?

  6. Regional/ localism.

    1. What aura does the place offer?

    2. Describe the landscape.

    3. What would frustrate newcomers?

    4. What would old timers miss if they had to move away?

    5. What are the speech patterns people use? What are the quirks?

    6. What are the major smells?

    7. Describe the different type of vegetation that grows there.

    8. Climate.

    9. Layout of the area.

    10. What are the unique customs particular to that area.

  7. Places you visited or lived at.

    a. How did the places shape you?

    b. How did it shape your friends?

  8. Stories that you embellish.

  9. What do you collect? Or what did you collect as a child?

D. WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  1. Taking characters "from life" can lead to bad fiction.

    You may not know these people half so well as you think you do. After all, you are never inside their memory, inside their soul-you don't really know why they do the things they do. You know why they say they do them; you know your own guesses. But when it comes to writing your character, you have to know a lot more than you'll ever know about your friends or family. So it isn't a matter of copying. You've still got to do a lot of invention before a real-life character-even one you know well-is ready to hold down a job in your fiction. (Characters and Viewpoint, Card, 27)

  2. Taking characters "from life" can lead to personal problems.

  3. You may discard the too familiar because it does not seem exciting enough to you (it may be to other people).

  4. Train yourself to look for the familiar from the eyes of a stranger.

  5. "Never undertake to write about something that interests you only mildly-especially if you are contemplating a book. The subject will certainly not interest the reader if you, yourself, are not excited about it" (Writing for Children and Teenagers, Wyndham, 83).

II. Researching Others

A. Observing Strangers

What do they do that's interesting? Annoying? Funny Weird? What are some reasons for them to act that way? Play therapist. Look for motivation, to why they are the way they are. What troubles them? What moves them?

B. Come up with reasons why something happens.

In your own life, use someone you know, or with a stranger you are observing, or a scene you pass bye.

III. Fairytale twists/Fables/ Legends/or The rest of the story

A. Take an unbelievable situation in life and make it believable.

B. Funny Incidents

IV. Use Celebrities.

Exercise - Uses a celebrity and plop in a different story. Ex: Julie Roberts in Godfather.

V. Develop an interesting bit of reality and build on it.

A. Writing Exercises

  1. Writing under strong emotion.

  2. Reflections of experience

  3. Free Write

  4. Lists

    1. List of everyone you loved or loved you. (Or you hate.)

    2. Pleasure during the day.

    3. What's in your refrigerator before you shopping and after.

    4. Everything on your desk.

    5. What's in your backpack and/or purses.

    6. Medicine take.

    7. How life be different if didn't marry … or didn't educate …

    8. What would do if won 10 million dollars.

    9. Everything in wallet/ receipt.

    10. Good things about where you live.

    11. Good memories.

    12. What you enjoy.

    13. What would I do if I could do … over again.

    14. Teachers you remember and what you remember about them.

    15. Expiration dates of objects in kitchen.

    16. Feelings you can't put into words.

    17. Fears

    18. Etc . . .

  5. Dreams (Night dreams)

  6. Unsent Letters

  7. Another author's style: Start typing in a story you like. When inspiration grabs you, take off on your own story. When you're done, delete the part of the story that isn't yours.

  8. Movie, Book and Tabloid Story Titles.

  9. First lines of other works

  10. Quotes

  11. Classified Ads

  12. Journals

  13. Repeated Catch-Phrase

  14. Make lists of issues that will help create a story.

    a. Things

    b. Things people do

    c. Issues in peoples lives

    d. Collection of want ads

    e. First lines of songs

    f. Proverbs

    g. Movie titles

    h. Book titles

    i. Tabloid Titles

    j. Book summaries

    k. Collect fairy tales and legends

    l. Animals

    m. Relatives

    n. Sea creatures

    o. People characteristics

    p. Medical conditions and symptoms

    q. Occupations

    r. Phobias

    s. City things

    t. Town things

    u. Geographical Features

    v. Weather

    w. Musical Instruments

    x. Sports and Games

    y. Baked Goods

    z. Candies

    aa. Desserts

    bb. Drinks

    cc. Fast Foods

    dd. Foods

    ee. Fruits

    ff. Ice Cream Flavors

    gg. Kool-Aid Flavors

    hh. Meats

    ii. Packaged Cereals

    jj. Snacks

    kk. Pops

    ll. Soups

    mm. Vegetables

    nn. Body Parts

    oo. Crayola Crayons Colors

    pp. Smells

    qq. Kinds of Clothes

    rr. Kinds of Camping Equipment

    ss. Shapes

    tt. Sounds

    uu. Vehicles

    vv. Face and body features

    ww. Personality traits

    xx. Facial expressions

    yy. Types of Body Language

    zz. Voice quality

    aaa. Names

    bbb. Alternative Sciences

    ccc. Hair styles and types of beard, mustaches

    ddd. Plants

    eee. Landscapes

    fff. Tools and Hardware

    ggg. Transportation

    hhh. Foot ware

    iii. Furnishings

    jjj. Decorations and Ornaments

    kkk. Types of buildings

    lll. Fashion

    mmm. Institutions

    nnn. Governments

    ooo. Politics

    ppp. Music

    qqq. Tastes

    rrr. Insults

    sss. Crimes

    ttt. Violence

    uuu. Ways of dying

    vvv. Religions